The PowerPoint 10/20/30 Rule – Just How Applicable Is It?

Posted on October 4, 2014 in Editing Slides, Slide Content, Slide Design by Slideshop

  • SumoMe

Guy Kawasaki 10 20 30

Here are three questions frequently-asked when preparing a presentation:

  • How many slides should I use?
  • How much text should appear on each slide?
  • How long should the presentation be

Guy Kawasaki has answered these questions with his 10/20/30 PowerPoint Rule. He evangelized this idea beginning in 2005, based on his experiences as a venture capitalist. He’d had to countless pitches, many of which bored him to tears. This prompted him to formulate his tried-and-true presentation guideline. Let’s review the concept and see how it can help you.

What Is 10/20/30 Rule?

10/20/30 is a numerical mnemonic for this working principle: A presentation should consist of 10 slides, last for 20 minutes, and contain text not smaller than 30 points.

  • 10 slides – Based on the fact that an audience can’t absorb countless concepts in one sitting, presenters should limit the number of slides to 10. You should only focus on the key points, relevant and interesting to your listeners.
  • 20 minutes – Even if you’re given unlimited time for your presentation, hold yourself to just 20 minutes for the presentation itself. Allot additional time for technical set-up, unforeseen interruptions, and discussion with the audience.
  • 30 points – Jamming a lot of text into each slide, and then just read it all off to the audience is a recipe for presentation failure.  To grab and hold your audience’s attention, summarize your main concepts in your slides, and expand on those concepts as you speak – ideally in an interactive way.

How Applicable is the 10/20/30 Rule?

In a blog post written by Kawasaki, he mentioned that this rule is especially applicable in presentations that aim to reach an agreement toward the end. For example, when seeking funding from an audience of venture capitalists. Contrary to what some believe, the rule doesn’t have to be followed in all situations.

Remember that each presentation is unique. There are always external factors to consider and adapt to, as a presenter – your listeners’ background, knowledge and character, for example. You also don’t always get to choose the ideal venue. There are times when it’s impossible to squeeze your presentation into just 20 minutes due to topic complexity. In cases like these, is the 10/20/30 rule useless?

Not necessarily. If we read between the lines of the rule, we can see many things. Here are three:

  • You are the star of your presentation. The PowerPoint slides are simply tools that forward your message. Your audience won’t understand your concepts simply because of your eye-catching slides. It’s your presence that creates the greater impact.
  • Brevity is essential.  Cut unnecessary details that waste your listeners’ time and attention. Your audience deserves something valuable. Be respectful of their needs.
  • Be effective. Don’t make things difficult for them by using unreadable text or confusing images, speaking too softly, etc. If you want to be understood, find ways to be the best speaker you can.

What do you think about Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint? How has it helped you in preparing presentations? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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